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LEARN TO DO WELL

By David Mantock

 

Sometimes when reading the Bible, we easily disassociate ourselves from its startling truths about human nature. When I read the Bible as a child I was always disappointed in the behaviour of the Israelites and I used to think, why oh why do they give poor Moses such a hard time? It was a long while before I realised that at various times in my life I had more in common with those Israelites than with my hero Moses. With that in mind, I hope that this article will encourage us to not let ourselves off the hook when we read the Scriptures. I pray that we will face the truth, and as our weakness is revealed, turn to the strength of the Lord Jesus. The reality is that without an earnest submission to his will and guidance we are hopelessly lost and as good at sinning as we ever were. However, in the Bible it says we should “learn to do well,” so it must be possible. Let us look at the verse that encourages us to do so:

Isaiah 1:17:
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

I would like to look at this verse in four parts:

LEARN TO DO WELL

If we are to do well, here are some pointers to get us started:

1 Peter 3:10-11:
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

We are encouraged to watch what we say and avoid wrongdoing. After all, we are saints and representatives of a most Royal King, and as such we must act in a godly way.

3 John 1:11:
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

At the very end of 1 Peter 3:11 it says we must ”seek peace, and ensue it.” For a condition to ensue means that it is the result of an action. So if we are going to seek peace our action must be to really chase after it. When we chase after something we don’t give up as soon as the first obstacle appears. Can you imagine a fox chasing a rabbit, and as soon as the rabbit makes a sharp turn the fox gives up? Of course not, the fox does not give up; and we must not give up either, or else there is the danger that we deceive ourselves as it says in the book of James.

James 1:22:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Self-deception is something that we all have experienced. If we really are to live as God’s people, we must avoid the hypocrisy spoken of in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 33:31:
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

It would also be utter self-deception to think that we could in any way fool God. He always knows what we are up to, what we do and why we do it. So we may as well be honest with him, ourselves and each other.

Jeremiah 23:24:
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.

SEEK JUDGMENT

To seek judgment is to be fair in all our dealings, or in other words, to be just. The symbol of justice is a set of scales, and it is pleasing to the Lord for us to have a just balance.

Proverbs 11:1:
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.

Conversely, a false balance is his sore displeasure.

Proverbs 20:23:
Diverse weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.

And why is that so? When we have a false balance we have let things into our lives that outweigh the Lordship of Jesus. Turning a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit is flaunting with the kind of rebellion that I so disliked in the Israelites as portrayed in the books of Moses.

Exodus 20:3, 5a:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me ...

5: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...

Let us seek justice so that we can know God as he wants us to know him.

Exodus 20:6:
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

RELIEVE THE OPPRESSED

To relieve the oppressed is to introduce the oppressed to the only one who can bring deliverance:

Acts 10:38:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

As we preach and minister the message of the Cross, the healing that accompanies it introduces the Lord Jesus Christ in a unique and intimate way, not only for those that experience the deliverance but also for those that witness it. It is like a lovingly crafted signature on the hearts and minds of the people present. Not only is it something they will never forget, it is also a witness of the majestic and merciful hand that wrote it.

Psalm 146:5-8:
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
6 Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
7 Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

If we walk in Christian integrity ourselves, we will pass on the truth that brings deliverance to the oppressed.

John 8:32:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

We also teach them to cast upon the Lord whatever oppresses them.

Psalm 55:22:
Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

JUDGE THE FATHERLESS, PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW

Deuteronomy 10:17-19:
For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

To judge the fatherless and plead for the widow is to do no less than to care for some of the most needy people in our society. On our recent trip to Kenya we were fortunate to visit a project in the city of Kisumu. In this area as in other parts of the world, a generation has been destroyed due to the plague of AIDS. If you were to see the children and the widows that were left behind, your heart would be filled with compassion. Thank God for the people who extend a hand of mercy to those needy people. We also visited a mission in Nairobi where orphaned victims of AIDS are being cared for. These works reminded me of this verse:

James 1:27:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

It takes many resources and no small amount of courage to do such work, but we can trust in the Lord regarding any challenge. We can learn to do good, and our God will surely be there to help us.

Isaiah 41:10:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Our salvation is by grace through faith, yet God makes it very plain that he expects us to be sober and obedient. We must not cheapen the wonderful salvation we have so freely received.

1 Peter 1:13-15:
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

 

 


From the July 2007 issue of The Vine & Branches